"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


you know you're there each and every prayer

Sake is haunting us. The faces of those too-thin, sick children keep me awake at night. I stopped by DOCS to talk to Lyn on Monday and she showed me this verse that had come up in her Bible study on Thursday night. She just said, "this is it."

Proverbs 13:23 "A poor man's field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away."

A famous UNICEF "ambassador of goodwill" (like Angelina Jolie when she's not hiding out in Namibia) visited Goma a few weeks ago. His story is here. The "church hospital" he refers to is DOCS. He was shocked. As you have to be when you see what is going on here while the world is busy elsewhere. One of the most interesting things in his story for me, though, was the note about the pygmies in far North Kivu. He says it's the first time in recorded history they've left the forest. Now, what that means is anybody's guess. Europeans have been traipsing around eastern Congo for 130 years or so. I don't know if anyone wrote down history before that, but the people of central Africa tell stories about their past, and if the pygmies had left the forest before that, you can almost be certain that their oral tradition would have recorded something so unusual. Pygmies just don't leave the forest. They didn't even leave the forest when the war was in full swing and foreign armies were openly operating in the Kivus. The forest and its creatures and plants and secrets defines who they are. But now they've left their homes, their schools, their plants, the graves of their ancestors, their churches, their lives.

Their entire lives have been uprooted.

It's like a private apocalypse. I don't think we can fully understand the scope of what it means to them to have to leave their homes. It does explain, though, why the desparation in their eyes is not just that of people who are starving -- and they are starving. But they're also deeply traumatized, as any of us would be if our entire way of life were ripped out from under us. They're shell-shocked. They're lost.

So here is what we're going to do: we're going to find a way to buy these people a field. It's not their home, and it's not in the forest, but the chiefs with whom we spoke last week said that they're scared to go back. What they want for their communities is some stability, and the ability to start over, in a safer place, where their children will have a chance. If they have land, they can build permanent homes. They can cultivate enough land to feed themselves, and maybe to produce enough to be able to sell something in the market. More importantly, if we can secure the title to their land, and if the war ever really ends and things like microcredit banking services ever make their way to this forgotten corner of the planet, they'll be able to borrow against the land in the future. That's the kind of thing that makes a real difference, that makes it possible for mothers to have their babies in a hospital and children to go to school and for the smartest one or two to go to university.

A local engineer calculated that they'd need 7 hectacres to be able to support all those families. Ciza and some other guys went out to look for land to buy around Sake. A hectacre of land in Sake costs $300. So we have to find $2100. At least. If we find more money, we can help the communities to buy seeds and farming tools and cooking pots and sleeping mats and some medicine to help that sick baby. $2100. I find it difficult to believe that such a small sum is the difference between death and hope.

The missions committe at my church just happens to be chaired by The Librarian, who is trying to see if the committee can come up with some or all of that sum. There are a lot of other important priorities in the missions budget, I know. $2100. Injustice sweeps away a poor man's means of providing food for his family. The God of abundance makes us witnesses to the difference $2100 could make. What will we do?


Blogger mark said...

it seems somehow reminiscent of "indians" in the us. now you want to give them a reservation!

it's heartening to see people making a difference!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 9:04:00 AM


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